Move to boost food hygiene

KABUL, 9 June 2009 (IRIN) - The Health Ministry has announced four days of spot checks on food and drink vendors, restaurants and bakeries throughout the country in a bid to ensure health and hygiene rules are obeyed.

Outlets or individuals found violating the regulations would face legal action, Health Ministry spokesman Ahmad Farid Raaid told IRIN.

“A lot of the food and drink sold in hotels and on the street are unhealthy and likely to contain dangerous bacteria,” Enayat Sahil, a health expert at Kabul’s infectious diseases’ hospital, said, adding that the Health Ministry could do more to raise awareness.

Diarrhoea is one of the consequences of eating bad food.

“He ate dirty food and has been suffering from severe diarrhoea,” Shafiq Gheyasi, a paediatrician at Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul, told IRIN, pointing to a seven-year-old patient. “As the weather gets hotter, the number of diarrhoea patients increases. Most fall ill because they consume dirty water or food.”

Afghanistan has one of the highest infant mortality and morbidity rates in the world. Every year about 50,000 children die from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Unhygienic food preparation areas are one of the contributing factors. Others are solid waste mismanagement; air pollution; low levels of education; high levels of illiteracy; the lack of awareness of the need for regular handwashing with soap; a lack of awareness generally; and very poor water and sanitation systems.

Four days of spot checks may not be enough to significantly improve the situation: Tens of thousands of otherwise unemployed people earn a living as food and drinks vendors in towns and cities across the country.

"It is quite early at this stage to gauge the effects and impact of this four-day warning, but I think it certainly helps attract peoples' attention to an important health issue," Ahmad Wali Jalal, director of Wadan, a local NGO involved in water and sanitation in Kabul, told IRIN.  

Source: Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a project the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.

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